Message regarding support for educational innovation, university leadership positions and allocation of precious resources
Feb. 14, 2013
The university-wide strategic planning workshop two weeks ago exceeded our expectations in many ways. In fact, the constructive spirit among the 450-plus participants was so palpable and the resulting ideas were so valuable that I stand by what I said in this video recap of the workshop: As a university community, we really must find a way to get together like this more frequently.
The event’s only drawback was that it replaced the Presidential Address, one of my regular opportunities for connecting with you and your colleagues about important issues in the life of Marquette. So instead, I am using this message to be in touch about several matters that merit our attention.
New gifts for educational innovation: With our planning process helping to launch Marquette into a period of reimagining our transformative student experience, it is exciting to announce, as we did this week in the Diederich College of Communication, a major gift that helps accelerate this work. A new $8.3 million donation from Peter and Patricia Frechette will bring top working journalists to Marquette to lead in-depth public service journalism projects. Students will benefit from “a teaching hospital model” of journalism that focuses on solutions to real-world problems.
A recent $1.5 million grant from the federal government supports another great example of Marquette’s work to address challenges in the world beyond our campus. The funding makes possible a proven partnership between the physical therapy department in the College of Health Sciences and the United Community Center to work with students at Bruce Guadalupe Community School who are at high risk for obesity and other health problems.
University leadership: I am also pleased to report progress in our efforts to fill several key leadership positions at Marquette. After visits to campus by four outstanding finalists for the deanship of the Klingler College of Arts and Sciences, Provost John Pauly and I expect to announce the college’s new dean in the coming days. Be assured that the academic leader who will soon guide Marquette’s largest college will be an accomplished and dynamic one.
With assistance from a firm specializing in philanthropic talent, we are conducting a national search for candidates for the position of vice president for university advancement. The enthusiastic interest we are seeing from leading advancement executives is a welcome sign that this is one of the more attractive positions in university philanthropy circles nationally. I thank Tom MacKinnon for his trusted interim advancement leadership and look forward to welcoming him back full-time at the completion of the search to the critical role he plays as my Chief of Staff. And on the subject of positions that are drawing interest from outstanding candidates, an active search is also underway for Marquette’s next vice president for marketing and communication, under the direction of Cas Castro, vice president of human resources.
Allocating precious resources: Amid these and many other reasons for optimism about Marquette’s future, we cannot avoid new realities that are putting pressure on university budgets nationwide. Moody’s Investors Service underscored these challenges when it downgraded its 2013 outlook for higher education from “stable” to “negative,” citing limits on tuition and other revenues, which reflect a “prolonged period of depressed family income and household net worth.” In a climate that requires us to determine targeted priorities for scarce discretionary resources, the university’s leadership has authorized a 2 percent increase in the 2013 salary pool. Managers will draw from this pool in determining individual raises for the coming fiscal year. This allocation reflects a conviction I share with others in leadership that Marquette’s faculty and staff are the university’s great source of strength. It also reflects how sound financial stewardship has allowed Marquette to avoid the furloughs, benefit reductions and position eliminations experienced at many other colleges and universities. In light of an outlook that will remain challenging over the long-term, “Sustainability of Valuable Resources” has been identified as one of six core themes of the forthcoming strategic plan and will be a priority as we move forward.
Finally, I want to close by sharing the pride I have felt toward this community over the last few remarkable weeks at Marquette. I have already mentioned my reaction to the aforementioned planning workshop. Then the next week, we hosted a moving observance of Mission Week with a gathering of heroic recipients of the Opus Prize for transformative humanitarian service. Thank you sincerely for making these events possible and for being the difference for Marquette in so many ways.
Scott R. Pilarz, S.J.